As part of NCLB, the Congress mandated a National Assessment of Title I (Section 1501) to evaluate the implementation and impact of the program. This mandate required the establishment of an Independent Review Panel (IRP) to advise the Secretary on methodological and other issues that arise in carrying out the National Assessment and the studies that contribute to this assessment. In addition, the law specifically requires a longitudinal study of Title I schools to examine the implementation and impact of the Title I program.
On November 6, 2002, the President signed the "Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002," establishing a new National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) in the Institute of Education Sciences. Part D of this Act assigned responsibility for the National Assessment of Title I to NCEE. The creation of this Center represented an important shift in the purposes of program evaluation and the types of methodology used in Department evaluation studies from broader policy and program assessments to specific scientific evaluations of program effectiveness. In the past, Department program evaluation studies of Title I have focused primarily on issues of program implementation, such as targeting of federal resources, compliance with federal laws and regulations, characteristics of program participants, and types of services provided.
However, school superintendents, principals, and teachers often do not have the information they need in order to make sound decisions to improve instruction and raise student achievement. In many areas, the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of education programs is weak, inconsistent, or nonexistent. Evidence is needed on the effectiveness of specific interventions to inform Title I program improvement. NCLB repeatedly emphasizes the importance of adopting scientifically proven educational practices and programs. In an effort to significantly raise the quality of scientific evidence on program effectiveness, NCEE has launched a generation of evaluation studies that use the most rigorous evaluation designs possible to detect the impact of educational practices and programs on student achievement. Under the National Assessment of Title I, NCEE has begun studies of remedial reading programs, reading comprehension programs, and mathematics curricula to assess the effectiveness of educational programs in these important areas of academic achievement. These studies are randomized trials in which schools or teachers are randomly assigned to an educational program or to the control condition. Such experimental designs are the most reliable and accurate way of estimating the effectiveness of an educational intervention.
In response to the requirements in Section 1501, the National Assessment of Title I includes both studies of program implementation and of the effectiveness of specific interventions. Implementation studies, carried out by the Policy and Program Studies Service (PPSS) in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, provide nationally representative data on the implementation of key components of the Title I program. Effectiveness studies, carried out by the Institute of Education Sciences, provide evidence about those practices which produce the best results. Together these two types of studies can provide the information needed to effectively target technical assistance and assist policymakers in making decisions on the best use of resources.